Clocking in at almost 3 hours, The Batman may come across as too long for certain moviegoers expecting the same treatment from its earlier celluloid predecessors, or just right for others looking for a total departure in terms of execution of the Dark Knight mythology on the big screen.
Matt Reeve’s treatment feels like a loose combination of all previous Batman films; with bits and pieces of the old ones surfacing every now and then in a bizarre, but interesting chopsuey mix that engages and throttles the viewer into a unique view of Gotham and its denizens that shares more similarity to David Fincher thrillers like SE7EN and ZODIAC more than the others.
It wastes no time in telling us that we’re already in the second year since Batman appeared; not bothering with the obligatory flashback of the elder Wayne couple’s death and their son’s awakening as a masked vigilante, but rather on the raw and still volatile persona who calls himself “Vengeance”; and successfully cultivated a partnership with Detective-but soon to be Commissioner-James Gordon, to the point of being allowed inside an active police crime scene to share his observations despite operating outside the boundaries of the law.
Credit goes to Reeves for adding a layer of horror to the entire proceedings as we’re immediately thrust into a grisly murder of a politician by the film’s main antagonist The Riddler. This is not the campy, nearly harmless comedic relief that previous film and TV incarnations have displayed: This Riddler is a serial murderer heavily influenced by the actual Zodiac Killer of California in the late 60s down to the ciphers and the egotistical provocations to law enforcement and the media.
Paul Dano’s approach to the villain draws parallels to Heath Ledger’s iconic portrayal of The Joker in terms of playing unhinged, comical bad guys with a touch of real menace and danger that could present an actual threat to the hero. Intelligent, calculating, patient, and a total sociopath. There’s even a nod to SE7EN’s own killer John Doe in one of the Riddler’s rants about getting people’s attention to hear whatever demented sermons they wanted to preach.
The dominant tone of the movie falls within the horror/thriller spectrum by way of its serial killer cat and mouse game and the atmosphere that makes Christopher Nolan’s noirish cityscape look like a sunny and cheerful place by comparison. Even the choice of music, like “Ave Maria” and the downtempo, and least-talked about Nirvana track “Something In The Way” from their iconic NEVERMIND album adds to the literal and figurative darkness of the proceedings.
But for all its gloom-laden and nihilistic pursuits, the movie gives a good backdrop to Batman’s evolution from a character indulging in revenge to one that is less about himself, and more towards protecting the place he loves and the legacy of his parents’ philanthropic mission.
Robert Pattinson, Jeffrey Wright, and Andy Serkis make a great team similar to the Bale, Caine, and Freeman trio of the recent trilogy. The new cast, especially Pattinson, managed to give an original and engaging take on the Dark Knight, especially on his strengths as a detective and investigator.
With superhero movies falling into the trap of repetition, this new approach to the Batman saga is a welcome addition.